Mode Menu

Machine White

Forces the chess engine to play white.

Machine Black

Forces the chess engine to play black.

Two Machines

Starts a game between two chess engines.

Machine Both

A single chess engine plays itself. Mainly useful for pseudo-engines, that are in fact communication links to another machine, where you want to observe a game that is being played. (E.g. the server). This command is not implemented yet (version 4.3.14).

Analysis Mode

In this mode, you can make moves for both sides on the board. After each move, the chess engine will think about possible replies and display its analysis in a separate window. Crafty was the first engine to support this feature, but by now there are many others that support it as well. With respect to playing variations, the same holds as in Edit Game mode.

From WinBoard 4.4 on this function can also be invoked in ‘zippy mode’, i.e. when you are logged on to an ICS with an engine loaded. In that case it is not your own moves that the engine analyzes, but the moves that are played in a game on the ICS that you are observing. You must start observing before you start the analysis mode! See the file zippy.README for how to connect to an ICS and a chess engine running on your local computer at the same time. (Basically this amounts to adding the /zp command-line option in addition to all options you would need for connecting to the ICS, as well as those needed for running the chess engine.)

Analyze File

In this mode, you can load a game from a file, and the chess engine will analyze each move as in Analysis Mode. Crafty was the first engine to support this feature, but by now there are many others that support it as well.

ICS Client

This is the normal mode when WinBoard is connected to a chess server. If you have moved into Edit Game or Edit Position mode, you can select this option to get out.

When you run WinBoard in ICS mode, it starts up a console window in which you can type commands and receive text responses from the chess server. You can use the standard Windows editing keys to edit your command line before pressing Enter. The console window keeps a history of the last few commands you typed. Press the up-arrow key to go back to a previous command; press the down-arrow key to go forward again to a later command. Press the right mouse button in the output area for a context menu of editing commands and ICS command shortcuts.

Some useful ICS commands include who to see who is logged on, games to see what games are being played, match to challenge another player to a game, observe to observe an ongoing game, examine or smoves to review a recently completed game, and of course help.

Whenever you ask to observe an ongoing game, review a completed game, or resume an adjourned game, WinBoard retrieves and parses the list of past moves from the ICS, so you can review them with Forward and Backward or save them with Save Game.

In ICS mode a graph of players seeking games can be displayed in stead of the chess board, when you are idle (i.e. not playing, observing or examining). When this feature is enabled, left-clicking in the board area will switch between board and the seek graph. For details on this, see the Seek Graph command.

Some special ICS Client features are activated when you are in examine or bsetup mode on ICS. See the descriptions of the menu commands Forward, Backward, Pause, and Stop Examining below. You can also issue the ICS position-editing commands with the mouse. Move pieces by dragging with the left mouse button, or by left-clicking once on the starting square and once on the ending square. Press the right mouse button over a square for a context menu that lets you drop a new piece, empty the square, or clear the board. Click on the White or Black clock to set the side to play. You cannot set the side to play or drag pieces to arbitrary squares while examining on ICC, but you can do so in bsetup mode on FICS. You can also make moves by typing them into the ICS window; you may have to do this occasionally if you are playing a chess variant whose rules WinBoard does not understand. (But this list is getting shorter, and Fischer Random is not on it anymore; you can enter castling there with the mouse by dragging the King on top of the Rook.)

If you are playing a bughouse game on the ICS, a list of the offboard pieces that each player holds is shown in the window title bar, and graphically in the holdings area next to the board. To drop an offboard piece, drag it from the holdings to the board. (Pressing the right mouse button over an empty square to bring up a context menu will still work if you have set the /dropMenu option.) To observe your partner's games, start a second copy of WinBoard, log in as a guest, and use the ICS follow or pfollow command in the new window. You can also use the Background Observe or Dual Board features to follow your partner’s game through a single connection on which you are also playing yourself, in the background (peeking at it by pressing the right mouse button), or on side-by-side boards in the board window.

Edit Game

Allows you to make moves for both Black and White, and to change moves after backing up with the Backward command. The clocks do not run, but you can adjust their reading by clicking on them. A left-click subtracts one minute, a right-click adds one minute.

In chess engine mode, the chess engine continues to check moves for legality but does not participate in the game. You can bring the chess engine back into the game by selecting Machine White, Machine Black, or Two Machines.

In ICS mode, the moves are not sent to the ICS: Edit Game takes WinBoard out of ICS Client mode and lets you edit games locally. If you want to edit a game on ICS in a way that other ICS users can see, use the ICS examine command or start an ICS match against yourself.

If you edit an existing game locally by playing new moves while not at the end, you will create a new variation. (New moves at the end will simply be appended to the existing game.) WinBoard will then shelve the original variation (‘main line’) from beyond the point where you played a new move. You can later revert to that main line with the Revert or Annotate commands. This will discard the variation you just entered, and restores the moves of the original main line that you overwrote. This procedure can be applied recursively, so you an make (sub-)variations on variations. Rather than entering variations move by move, you can also recall them from PGN variations in the Comment window, by right-clicking those.

Edit Position

Lets you set up an arbitrary board position. Use the left mouse button to drag pieces to new squares, or to delete a piece by dragging it off the board or dragging an empty square on top of it. To drop a new piece on a square, press the right mouse button over the square. This brings up a menu of pieces. Additional menu choices let you empty the square or clear the board. You can set the side to play next by clicking on the White or Black indicator at the top of the screen. The pop-up menu also contains options to ‘promote’ or ‘demote’ the piece currently in the square. (In variants like Crazyhouse a piece has a different representation when it is a promoted Pawn rater than an original piece.) This allows you to create some of the not-so-common pieces (e.g. a Unicorn is a promoted King, a Commoner is a demoted King).

In Edit Position mode you can type a FEN in the move type-in box to setup the corresponding position.

Selecting Edit Position causes WinBoard to discard all remembered moves in the current game.

In ICS mode, change made to the position by Edit Position are not sent to the ICS: Edit Position takes WinBoard out of ICS Client mode and lets you edit positions locally. If you want to edit positions on ICS in a way that other ICS users can see, use the ICS examine command, or start an ICS match against yourself. (See also ICS Client above.)

Show Engine Output

Open a new window dedicated to showing the thinking output of the engine(s), as controlled by “Show Thinking”. In ICS mode kibitzed info of an opponent engine can appear here as well, under control of the /autoKibitz option. Right-clicking a line of thinking output will allow you to step through the PV it contains on the main board, by vertically moving the mouse, keeping the right-button pressed. This also works for PVs kibitzed to you through an ICS.

WinBoard will display lines of thinking output of the same depth ordered by score, (highest score on top), rather than in the order the engine produced them. Usually this amounts to the same, as a normal engine search will only find new PV (and emit it as thinking output) when it searches a move with a higher score than the previous variation. But when the engine is in multi-variation mode this needs not always be true, and it is more convenient for someone analyzing games to see the moves sorted by score. The order in which the engine found them is only of interest o the engine author, and can still be deduced from the time or node count printed with the line.

Show Evaluation Graph

Open a new window dedicated to displaying a graph, representing the development of the engine score(s) from the current game over time. (Needs “Show Thinking” to be enabled in order to work.) Right-clicking on the graph will take you to the corresponding move in the board display.

Show Game List

Shows or hides the list of games generated by the last Load Game command. Which info from the PGN tags is included in the game-description line can be customized. A 'Filter' field in this window allows you to display only lines that contain a certain string. (E.g. a player name to see only games of that player from a big tournament file.)

Show Move History

Open a new window dedicated to showing the game currently in progress. Double-clicking on a move takes you to the corresponding position in the board display.

Open Chat Window

Open a new window that in ICS mode can be used to display messages received from ICS tell commands from a specified ICS handle, from a channel (when you set the handle to the channel number), shouts / c-shouts, or whispers / kibitzes from co-observers of a game (when you set the handle to “”shouts, “c-shouts”, “whisper” or “kibitzes”). You have to press the “Change” button in the chat window to activate the entered handle, or type . Typing into the bottom field of the window will send tell messages to the handle or channel, or whispers to co-observers. You can open up to five chat windows. Messages that are diverted to such a chat window will not appear in the ICS interaction window. A window dedicated to shouts will also capture c-shouts (if there is no dedicated c-shout box) and ‘It’ messages, recognizable on the type of bracketing used around the shouter name ( [ ], ( ) or < >, respectively).


Training mode lets you interactively guess the moves of a game for one of the players. While in Training mode, the navigation buttons are disabled. You guess the next move of the game by playing the move on the board (or using the Type In Move command). If the move played matches the next move of the game, the move is accepted and the opponent’s response is autoplayed. If the move played is incorrect, an error message is displayed.

Edit Tags

Lets you edit the PGN (portable game notation) tags for the current game. After editing, the tags must still conform to the PGN tag syntax:

<tag-section> ::= <tag-pair> <tag-section>
<tag-pair>    ::= [ <tag-name> <tag-value> ]
<tag-name>    ::= <identifier>
<tag-value>   ::= <string>

See the PGN Standard for full details. Here is an example:

[Event "Portoroz Interzonal"]
[Site "Portoroz, Yugoslavia"]
[Date "1958.08.16"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Robert J. Fischer"]
[Black "Bent Larsen"]
[Result "1-0"]

Any characters that do not match this syntax are silently ignored. Note that the PGN standard requires all games to have at least the seven tags shown above. Any that you omit will be filled in by WinBoard with "?" (unknown value) or "-" (inapplicable value).

Edit Comment

Adds or modifies a comment on the current position. Comments are saved by Save Game and are displayed by Load Game, Forward, and Backward.

Enter Username

Allows you to type the name of the human player, which will appear in the PGN header and in the window title.


Pauses updates to the board, and if you are playing against a local chess engine, also pauses your clock. To continue, select Pause again, and the display will automatically update to the latest position. The P (or C) button is equivalent to selecting Pause.

If you select Pause when you are playing against a chess engine and it is not your move, the chess engine’s clock will continue to run and it will eventually make a move, at which point both clocks will stop. Since board updates are paused, however, you will not see the move until you exit from Pause mode (or select Forward). This behavior is meant to simulate adjournment with a sealed move.

If you select Pause while you are in examine mode on ICS, you can step backward and forward in the current history of the examined game without affecting the other examiners or observers. Select Pause again to reconnect yourself to the current state of the game on ICS.

If you select Pause while you are loading a game, the game stops loading. You can load more moves one at a time by selecting Forward, or resume automatic loading by selecting Pause again.